CHESTER – With the help of town engineer Dubois and King, a seemingly workable solution to finish Lincoln Lane has been proposed. It’s a solution in which all players except the developer who owns the road are invested.
Many of the Lincoln Lane residents who have been meeting alternately with the board of selectmen and the planning board over the past few months were in attendance at the June 26 planning board meeting.
The residents have been looking for ways to get their road completed to town standards and then accepted as public. While they assumed such would be the case when they purchased their new homes, developer Abdallah Construction has reportedly decided not to bring it up to town standards. Instead, Lincoln Lane remains privately owned and residents have complained about its upkeep, especially in regard to winter maintenance.
Residents have said they’ve repeatedly tried to get in contact with George Abdallah of the development company, but that has not been successful. While typically in such a situation the town could use money it held from a developer in a performance bond to finish the work, the amount held in that bond in this case is significantly less than is needed to complete the road.
The town holds about $7,800, but to lay a wear coat and complete shoulder work would cost an estimated more than $16,000.
The reason for the shortfall has been the subject of some discussion. A portion of the shortfall is the result of inflation, something the planning board has since instituted controls to prevent. Residents have claimed, however, that most of the shortfall comes from an oversight in a routine road inspection.
A performance bond is released in portions throughout buildout as different aspects are completed to town standard. At a previous selectmen’s meeting, resident Deborah Hesketh argued that an incorrect pavement thickness calculation resulted in too much of the bond being released during a routine inspection.
Chair Brian Sullivan began the discussion at last week’s meeting with an offer to get the road fixed that he said would be palatable to the residents. Sullivan tackled the issue the residents claimed was the source of the bond shortfall. He said the pavement thickness was an estimate with inherent variability in the inspection process.
Sullivan noted that while Dubois and King makes it clear it is providing estimates in such work, the company was nonetheless willing to help out with the project. The company has worked in town for years, Sullivan said, and part of its goodwill offer was to avoid having its name tarnished from a perceived oversight.
According to Sullivan the engineering company is offering $5,600 toward the project plus both Request for Proposal write up and engineering oversight at no cost. That sum, combined with the $7,800 bond, leaves a few thousand dollars for the residents to come up with to do the work, depending on the final bid price.
“This is the most cost effective and expeditious way to get this done,” said Sullivan.
Planning board member Andrew Hadik agreed that the offer was the most pragmatic and quickest way to get the road finished. Hadik said that winter maintenance alone would likely cost more than the residents’ portion of the road cost.
Sullivan added that litigating the case would take considerable time and much more money.
A legal opinion from town counsel sought by the planning board indicates that the town has no liability or legal responsibility to finish Lincoln Lane.
Hadik referenced that opinion, stating that there was recent case law to back it up.
While no formal decision was given by the residents, the general response was positive.
Resident William Hesketh asked when an opinion was needed, but Hadik said the process could start as soon as a resident petitioned the selectmen to accept the road as a class five public road.
To show their intentions of moving quickly on the project, the planning board voted to call the bond to have that money available for the project. Member Cass Buckley said he thought the move was premature and voted against it.
Sullivan said the answer coming from the planning board June 26 was the same one it has been giving all along, but the offer by Dubois and King allowed for the project to move forward.